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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...

The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?

Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words

The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies

2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother


Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown

Intimacy Begins With "I"

As readers, we come to a story wanting various things: titillation, adventure, drama, illumination. But what we need first is intimacy with another human being, so we can experience the story through him or her. We want to be so close to the action that we feel the sensations in our own bodies, and hear the main character’s most private thoughts. I personally believe the quickest route there is through the First Person Perspective.

In First Person, the story is told through a single set of eyes, as if the narrator is sharing a memory:

I sat on the bed, my stomach fluttering. Rick sauntered toward me with a smile.

Or, in present tense, as the narrator lives through the experience:

I sit on the bed, my stomach fluttering. Rick saunters toward me with a smile.

In both cases, intimacy is immediate. We are there—waiting on the bed, watching Rick expectantly. In good writing, we’ll share the narrator’s experience in body, mind and soul. What more could we ask for in words on a page?

There are limitations and drawbacks to First Person, but with a little thought you can work around them, or use them to your advantage. Here are a few:

LIMITED PERSPECTIVE:  In First Person, the reader cannot know what other characters in the scene are feeling or thinking. This isn’t a bad thing, because it forces the writer to show those thoughts and emotions through action. (Just what your English teachers have been harping on since grade four.)

This ‘limitation’ also means that some information is held back from the reader. Hurrah! One of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make is to tell too much, too soon. If the reader knows everything—the thoughts and motivations of every character—tension is deflated. We know what’s going to happen, so why continue on? First Person is one of the best ways to withhold information and raise the reader’s interest. For example, in the above sample sentences, do we really know why Rick is smiling?

First Person never jars the reader, or divides his loyalties. Even in the hands of a skilled writer, a switch of perspective has a ‘speedbump’ effect. It’s like settling down to watch an interesting TV program, and having the telephone ring. The call might be important, yet we feel a momentary pang of annoyance. Too many ‘pangs’ and your reader will find something else to do. Also, with two or more perspectives, the reader wonders, ‘Who am I supposed to care about the most?’ You don’t want to squander his attention span on thoughts like that.

In novels, with more time, space and chapter divisions, multiple viewpoints can be an effective way to tell your tale. But the short story is a world of its own.

SELF DESCRIPTION:  I’m a great believer in vividly described characters, but that’s trickier in First Person. The gaze-in-the-mirror device is tired and over-used. Another technique is to weave the description into the story in bits and pieces: I stretched my long legs under the table  or He stroked my auburn hair, twirled a long strand around his finger. Instead of digesting a single ‘download’ of information, the reader will assemble the main character in his mind, like a jigsaw puzzle.

You can also use other characters’ responses to help the reader visualize the narrator:

I’ve warned Bubbie what I look like, but she’s shocked anyway; it takes her a second to recover and smile.

"Well, it’s as short as you said. You look like a little bird, a robin that fell out of the nest, flying feathers not grown in yet."

I shaved my head three weeks ago. My hair is a dark fuzz, a quarter of an inch all over my skull. ("Half Moon Girl," copyright 2003)

If your protagonist is especially beautiful or handsome, it’s best to leave that assessment to other characters. Let the room hush, let the love interest sigh. It’s difficult to describe oneself as stunning, sexy or charismatic without sounding like a conceited twit. (Unless a conceited twit is what you’re aiming for, in which case, good luck!)

LIMITED CHARACTERIZATION:  One of the greatest difficulties of the First Person narrative is to not sound like yourself, the writer. Most of us wind up creating characters who have the same lifestyle, education, thought and speech patterns as we do in real life. While the result may be ‘believable,’ it also becomes boring for both your reader and yourself. Why not stretch?

One way to help yourself become someone truly different is to create a ‘word pool.’ Brainstorm, then list distinctive words or expressions your character might use. A ‘techie’ and an indigent single mom would have very different word pools. Remember, in First Person it’s not just dialogue that will benefit from these distinct expressions, but the entire story.

It’s especially challenging to write ‘up,’ create a narrative of someone smarter or wittier than yourself. One thing to remember is that you have a luxury your character doesn’t: time. His off-the-cuff repartee could have taken you days to write, but the reader doesn’t know that—thank God.

A LAST NOTE: Even if you don’t feel comfortable in the "I" mode, or if your story cries out for an omniscient perspective, you can sneak in bits of First Person through your main character’s thoughts. Read the following two examples:

John knew he was done for. He’d never get the handcuffs off. 
I’m done for, John thought. I’ll never get these handcuffs off!

Both impart the same information, but the latter is more intimate and immediate. We draw closer to John, if only briefly, and First Person POV has done its job.

"Beyond the Basics" © 2005 Tulsa Brown. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Tulsa Brown is an award-winning novelist who has also written for film and media, and has led many writing workshops for adults and young people.

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